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Robert BURROWS

Year of Award: 1994 Award State: Tasmania Social Welfare > General
The Tasmanian Law Society Churchill Fellowship to study ways to assist all kinds of young people in learning and reaching maturity - USA
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In 1994 Robert (Bob) was Administrator for Community, Training and Education Centres, Tasmania.

Before leaving on his Fellowship, Bob admitted that his work might only be a drop in the ocean, but he was enthusiastic that he would learn a great deal about establishing programs to help young people – including those at risk. He felt that many young people had plenty of gifts and talents, but few people had taken the time out to talk with them, find out their interests and make appropriate moves to improve their skills. Bob believed that through highly consultative, interactive and cooperative partnerships, young people could reach their full potential.

Bob observed the Unit Management Model – where staff who are traditionally considered non-skilled are given training in observation, interpersonal skills, empathetic listening and case file management. It was a model that could be used to restructure a whole organisation so that everyone was committed to common goals and responsibilities – whether case worker, parole officer, corrections officer, or health-care worker. He observed that the model was used to break down the organisation into smaller teams of workers. He believed that this structure had an impact on the whole organisation, and said he learned that big, monolithic structures don’t work. He believed that ‘we become much more effective when we can delegate as much responsibility and power to the lowest level of the organisation.’ He was keen to try to build smaller work teams that had clear areas of responsibility cutting across professions, so that it wasn’t just a single group of people involved, and so that case-management and unit teams should consist of a good cross-section of people.

In 1994 this was a work in progress, but some organisations he observed had worked with the unit management model for close to 15 years, and for them the workplace was starting to look different to the beginning. It allowed them to think about ordering themselves into much smaller, more effective work teams and enhanced the whole concept of teamwork. (He felt there was still a long way to go, as some groups were still debating the division of responsibilities.)

He returned from his Fellowship with a belief that learning environments needed to recognise the different learning styles and needs of young people—through highly consultative, interactive and cooperative partnerships, so that those young people can reach their potential. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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